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Obesity linked to severity and longer duration of flu

Memphis, Tennessee, March 3, 2020

two researchers working in the lab

From left to right, Graduate student Rebekah Honce and Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry, faculty member in the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases.

Obesity is linked to increased severity and longer duration of the flu as well as higher amounts of flu in the body. St. Jude scientists have now shown that obesity can influence the diversity of the flu virus in the population.

The researchers found that obese mice had a delayed immune response to the flu virus allowing the virus to spread faster in the obese mice.

The flu virus from obese mice also had more changes, some of which allowed the virus to cause more disease even in non-obese mice.

The team expanded their work to include samples from humans with obesity. The findings echoed those in mice. The human cells had a lower immune response and the flu virus spread more quickly.

“Our worked showed that obesity provides an environment that gives minor flu variants a chance to replicate and become more virulent,” said Stacey Schultz-Cherry, PhD, of Infectious Diseases.

mBio published a report on this work.

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